Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry! The theme of this latest writing event is summer vacations and it's been a pleasure to read through your entries and your own individual takes on the theme, though one of you has submitted a particularly...unique interpretation that I would be remiss to be leave out from this poll.
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#1 - How to die on Vacation
#1 - How to die on Vacation
“Alright!” Zidane fist pumped the air, dawning his banana print swim-trunks, “Let’s get this vacation started! Volleyball anyone?” He glanced around as his friends immediately split up. “H-Hey!”
“We’re gonna go build the castles out of sand!” Eiko snatched Vivi’s hand and ran towards the beach, bumping into Zidane with her pink inner-tube.
“W-wait!” Vivi cried, clinging to his hat as he was dragged along.
“I’m going to get hammered.” Amarant grunted, rubbing the tip of his nose as he casually walked off towards the Tiki Bar.
“And I shall go stand guard as the ladies change!” Steiner saluted and ran off, his armour grinding loudly as he left.
“I play ball Zidane!” Quina waddled over, provoking a groan as Zidane hung over in defeat.
Over at the beach Eiko turned over a bucket of sand, tapping it to reveal a sandy dome. “And this is the area me and Zidane will get married in.”
“Eiko! I found a butter knife!” Vivi ran over, grasping the said knife in hand.
“A steak knife would’ve been better.. but this will do.” She snatched it and quickly stabbed it in the middle of her sandcastle. “Perfect! Looks just like Alexandria!”
“Of course it does, all it needs now is water for the moat! Get some while I grab Zidane!”
“Okay..” Vivi let out a sigh, “This running around is sure making me hot.”
Eiko stood to her feet and pointed at his hat, “Well no wonder, try taking off your hat.”
“M-my hat? I’ve never taken my hat off around anyone but Grandpa...”
“C’mon, You don’t need to be scared! We’re all basically family here. Heck, me and Zidane are practically married.”
“I... guess you’re right. Okay. I’ll do it!” He mustered up his moxie and gripped his hat, slowly raising it up. He felt sweat beading down his face as Eiko expectantly stared. Her face went from excited to shocked, shocked to worried, and worried to pure horror as she quickly grasped his hands and lowered the hat back down again.
“On the other hand, you don’t want to get sunburned.”
Over by the tiki bar Amarant sat in his seat, his usual frown grimacing over the large embellishment of fruit in his drink. “What kind of a girly drink is this?”
“Kupo! It’s a tiki bar, what’d you expect?” The bartender, a moogle dressed in an oversized hibiscus-print shirt, shook his fist in anger.
“Whatever.” He grunted, tossing a little umbrella aside before downing the entire drink.
“I didn’t take you as the kind of guy to drink something with an umbrella in it.” Freya approached in a Cleyra dancer’s bikini, flicking her hair back with dramatic anime-styled sparkles.
“And I didn’t take you as the kind of girl to dress like a girl.” He grunted again, motioning for another drink.
Freya’s eyes narrowed as she angrily plopped herself in the stool across from him, maintaining eye contact,“I’ll have what he’s having.”
“Quina! Stop trying to eat the ball!” Zidane yelled out as he slung his hand clean of slobber. He quickly tossed the ball at Quina and nailed him/her in the head, sending him/her back into the ocean. “Fucking disgusting,” he murmured under his breath.
“Zidane!” Eiko squealed, making him shriek in a high pitched voice and fall back onto the ground.
“Jeez, you scared me!” He clenched a hand over his heart as he steadied his breathing.
“I can’t believe a gentleman would say such a thing in front of a woman!” She tapped her barefoot angrily as he brushed sand off his knees.
“What’d you need?” He crossed his arms irritably, but not long before his attention was caught elsewhere.
“I wanted to tell you about the castle me and Vivi just made! It even has-”
“Cool, tell me more about it later.” He cut her off and jogged away, leaving her there alone with a large angry pout.
Garnet walked out of the shop nearby, dawning her orange bikini and a large set of sunglasses over her eyes. Her pendent conveniently ran down and rested perfectly in the middle of her chest, something that didn’t go unnoticed as Zidane approached her.
“H-hey Dagger,” He scratched the back of his head, looking her up and down briefly. “I like your... sunglasses.”
“Thanks,” She adjusted them, giving him a quick glance, “I like your... banana trunks.” She smiled and walked off, leaving him behind a bit embarrassed.
“Zidane!” Eiko shouted, catching up with him, “I wanted to show you our moat!”
“That’s nice, I’ll look at your goat later.” He waved her off and quickly ran to catch up with Garnet once again.
“Oh, is there something else?” Garnet smiled as he approached with an attentive tail and a smirk across his face.
“I was thinking, maybe you wanted a drink? Maybe a Haste Runner with an extra shot of Ultima?”
“That sounds lovely.” She smiled at him and laid down on one of the beach chairs, crossing a leg over another. Zidane clenched his fist in triumph and jogged off towards the bar, sweet butterflies and hearts swarmed his head as he went.
He made it halfway before stopping mid-stride, his eyes bulging out as both Steiner and Beatrix halted in place. A blob of suntan lotion fell from the bottle Steiner was holding as his other hand ceased movement right over Beatrix’s bottom. Steiner quickly stood up and waved his fist at Zidane, swearing at him as Zidane began to cackle.
“Nice banana hammock!” Zidane screamed, running away as Steiner tossed the bottle of lotion, nailing him in the back of the head.
Back by the sand castles Vivi knelt over a bucket of water as he looked at his reflection. “Maybe it’s not so bad...” He looked up at the family next to him as they happily played in the water. He exhaled a deep sigh and waddled over to them, “U-Uhm-Ex-excuse m-me...”
“Hello there!” One of the little girls called out, approaching him with an ice-cream cone in hand, “Do you wanna play?”
“S-Sure!” Vivi exclaimed, happy that someone actually wanted to play with him. “Eiko is right, I don’t need this!” He quickly tossed his hat aside and smiled before the little girl dropped her ice-cream and let out a shriek of pure terror.
“Put that thing away!” The mother yelled, shielding her daughter's eyes as the father approached.
“Hey, some of us are trying to enjoy our vacation! Have some tact!”
“E-Eikooo!” Vivi shrieked, tears blobbing behind him as he quickly grabbed his hat and ran away.
Over by the tiki bar Zidane tapped his foot impatiently as Eiko continued on about her castle. His irritation went unnoticed even while he nursed the large lump on the back of his head.
“And I was thinking that maybe we could decorate our wing in purple seashells!”
“Yeah sure... Hey, I got an idea!” He grasped her hand quickly, walking her back towards the Inn.
“O-oh!” Eiko flushed, her heart racing as Zidane promptly walked her inside.
“Why don’t you stay here for a bit and play with the others.” He picked her up and dropped her down into a sectioned off part of the Inn where several children were playing. “I’ll check back later.” He gave her a wink and a click of the tongue before running back out, passing Vivi as he left.
“Eiko!” Vivi cried, walking over to the children’s playpen, “You won’t believe what happened!”
“Not now, Vivi!” Eiko flushed, her hands over her red cheeks as she glanced around the room. “There’s been a development.”
Zidane has just entrusted me with the care of all these children!” She turned around and grasped Vivi by the collar, “Vivi! He wants to see if I have what it takes to be the mother of our future children!”
Leaving the bar Zidane finally picked up his two drinks, but not before stopping over by Amarant and Freya who were both worse for wear.
“Woah, are you guys okay?” He noticed the several empty glasses as Freya slammed down another.
“Just a friendly drinking competition. I’m two drinks ahead... Nice bananas.”
“Thanks...” He looked over at Amarant, “Where is your shirt?”
“Whatever,” he mumbled, drinking another drink in one swig.
“Drink responsibly, kids.” Zidane slapped Amarant on the back and made his way back to Garnet.
His spirits dropped as he approached Garnet, who was flocked by several other men. Two of whom were fanning her with palms. “What the hell?!”
“Oh, Zidane! You were taking a while, and all these nice gentlemen were so willing to help me out in this heat.”
“A little more shade your highness?” One of the men fanned her more, blocking her view of angry banana-pants.
Zidane dropped one of the drinks in disbelief, his bottom lip quivering in hurt. He turned to leave as Amarant approached him while holding a large palm leaf over his naked body. Without so much as a word he grasped the last drink in Zidane’s hand and downed it in one gulp, tossing it aside as he crossed to the other side of the beach.
Garnet tipped her sunglasses down below her eyes, taking a long sip of her drink as she stared at the pale blue abs that walked by, the glistening sheen across his perfectly round rump not going unnoticed. She fanned herself from the incredible heat that overcame her as Zidane groaned in defeat and fell to the sand, dying a long and painful death as his soul left his body.
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#2 - The Mermog
#2 - The Mermog
Wimpom tentatively toed the tranquil wash of the sea on the shoreline. The lone moogle had been teased incessantly about being unable to swim but this was a hot summer’s day, this beach was deserted of jeering onlookers and the cool, blue water was refreshingly inviting.
But the fear!
What horrors might lurk beneath the calm surface? What chaos might be masked by the gentle and rhythmic breaking of the waves? In the buoyant seaweed, Wimpom imagined a mass of writhing tentacles with no visible body acting as their master. In the frothy, milky-white surf he imagined the drool of the barking heads of the she-monster Scylla: devourer of many an unfortunate sailor, it is said.
The salty stench carried by the sea seemed to stimulate the imagination. As Wimpom lowered his eyes to his feet and stepped back from the troublesome water, he sensed a presence behind him and noticed the appearance of a shadow on the sand. The panicky moogle leapt into the air, spinning to face the interloper, before landing clumsily on his bottom in the shallow water as it retreated. The wet sand shifted to accommodate the shape of his shivering bottom, forming a throne of humiliation.
There, looming above him, appeared a dark silhouette blocking the sun. The seaside stranger was certainly a moogle, for it had the characteristic pom pom and ears, although it was rather well-built for mogkind. Could this be a monster in moogle form?!
“Waaah! What?! Who are you, kupo?” asked Wimpom nervously.
The shape offered its hand and lifted Wimpom back to his feet, whose eyes adjusted so that he could finally see the figure’s features unhindered by the sun. Possessed of a confident jock grin, this was no ordinary moogle indeed. Its soaked pom pom was weighted forward; it could have been a mutant anglerfish were it not for the drenched fur which was deep blue, like a soggy Ronso. Above the eyes the fur had overgrown into hair which hung down, clinging tightly to its briny face. The moogle brushed its dripping locks away from its brows, revealing bright, sparkling emerald eyes.
The stranger seemed perpetually wet. The sand beneath its feet formed a puddle like the worn moat of a sandcastle abandoned by children hours prior as it steadily united with the backwash of the nearby waves.
“You can call me… Mogdavy,” the figure said, testing the waters with words. “You have nothing to fear from the sea, kupo. I will teach you that nobody has ever suffered from a pleasant plunge.”
“But what about Faris, kupo?” the petrified pupil protested.
“The pirate Cap’n Faris Scherwiz mastered the seas. Not one soul could rival her, kupo.”
“But she nearly drowned!”
Wimpom wobbled with worry as he imagined the day a young Faris fell overboard and plunged backwards into the depths, too weak to pull herself back up. Hungry sharks swam overhead and threatened to block out the sun’s rays which pierced the surface: her last hope. The largest of the shark’s number darted straight for her, its jaws agape bearing its conveyer belt of myriad sharp teeth and its unfeeling, black eyes fixed uncaringly upon its meal.
“Ah! But she didn’t drown, kupo!” reminded Mogdavy, appearing to know the thalassic threats Wimpom had envisioned. “Before the sharks could chomp down on her, another beast held her in its jaws. Syldra, the magnificent sea dragon, carried her like a mother bear might carry her cub, although she was still only a young dragon herself. Faris was whisked away to the safety of the shore, kupo. There formed a lifelong bond that would enable Faris to rise in the ranks of the pirates and through this partnership they conquered the seas!”
Wimpom considered the matter as the waves continued to crash against his feet. Imagining his legs as the narrow straits of the Torna canal, he envisioned the head of the thunderous Syldra rising out of the sea and crying out in pain. The claws of the Karlabos had hit their mark and Syldra offered her life in sacrifice so that Faris could escape.
“That does sound reassuring – for Faris! But didn’t Faris just exploit that animal, kupo?” measured Wimpom.
“Not at all, kupo! Well, sometimes… sometimes folk come to an understanding with these animals and they can help us become one with the sea,” combatted Mogdavy. “Take Mr. Dolphin as an example…”
“Mr. Dolphin! The pet of Priscilla of Junon?” inquired Wimpom.
“Indeed that Mr. Dolphin, kupo,” reaffirmed Mogdavy. “Few people know this, for it is a story that has yet to be told officially,” Mogdavy winked then continued “but Mr. Dolphin was originally a captive animal. Trapped in a glass tank at Junon’s Oceanarium. Here, the clapping of the overfed seals were only outperformed by the slabbering applause of the paying public. People watched as Mr. Dolphin leapt through raised hoops – sometimes on fire! – paid in long-dead fish.”
“I didn’t know this…” noted Wimpom.
“Mr. Dolphin didn’t know any better. This was his world. Then Priscilla of Under-Junon broke into the park’s grounds one night and freed him. With tears in her eyes, she waved with a handkerchief as she pointed to the wide ocean and the new, exciting future which would await him.”
“But he didn’t go, did he?” puzzled Wimpom.
“Eventually. But dolphins are intelligent animals, like many beasts from the sea. He was loyal to the human who liberated him, and he sensed that trouble was soon to befall Priscilla. The Sea looks out for everyone, after all,” reassured Mogdavy, whose wet fur glistened in the afternoon sun; he could have been wearing a coat of diamonds.
“I-I don’t think that’s true! The sensed trouble came for her! I assume you mean the Bottomswell monster? Kupo! That makes my sandy bottom swell at the very thought! How can we serenely swim in a sea which spawns such beasts?” worried Wimpom.
Mogdavy twitched his nose and frowned darkly for a second. The water streamed off his brows like waterfalls, temporarily obscuring his eyes as if sealing away the priceless relics of Atlantis from undeserving trespassers. Then he shook his head.
“The Bottomswell attacked Priscilla. That is true, kupo. But it is also true that Mr. Dolphin stayed close to help protect her and ensured a strong party were nearby to resuscitate the young girl. Were it not for Mr. Dolphin, Priscilla would have been gobbled up long before Cloud could have performed CPR. Mr. Dolphin represents the ocean’s way of protecting us. Priscilla owes her life to the ocean, as do all of us who tread its waters…”
“That’s nice. But you’ve missed out the part where Cloud immediately afterwards exploited the dolphin’s acrobatic resume to help him navigate up a poorly maintained metal structure, with dangerous electric wires, kupo! The poor creature could have had his flippers zapped!” stressed Wimpom.
“I see your concern for sealife has superseded your concern for people. That is fortuitous, kupo,” declared Mogdavy, although Wimpom appeared to doubt this assertion. “You need no longer concern yourself with Mr. Dolphin. The terrible predicted incident dealt with, he did indeed set out to enjoy the sea. And he longs for Priscilla to one day join him and play with him once more, deep in the middle of the ocean.”
“But she’d surely drown, kupo!” Wimpom warned.
“Oh? Take note of my final lesson. Do you remember the case of Quina at Memoria?” Mogdavy asked. A tiny crab crawled along the top of his mouth and the moogle grabbed it with his tongue, crunched down on its exoskeleton and swallowed it with a gulp, all without breaking eye contact with his perplexed pupil.
“Quina the Qu, kupo? Is that when Zidane’s party entered a simulation of the bottom of the ocean, and Quina thought they were actually underwater and started to panic?” Wimpom quizzed.
“They were underwater. The water was real – but only Quina noticed, kupo. Nobody else thought that the water was real, so nobody else thought they were drowning.”
“Kupo! Are you saying that you can only drown if you perceive the water?” challenged Wimpom.
“I’m saying you can only drown if you perceive the water as a threat!” emboldened Mogdavy.
Wimpom contemplated the revelation for a few seconds, and then immediately scoffed, blowing a disparaging jet of air from his mouth like a surfacing whale.
“Think about it,” mused Mogdavy, “Hades himself lived at the bottom of the ocean there and Zidane’s party defeated him. If that isn’t a metaphor for overcoming death at sea, I don’t know what is, kupo.”
“And they never drowned…” stated Wimpom.
“They never drowned,” repeated Mogdavy.
“Then nor shall I, kupo!” accepted Wimpom, optimistically as he stepped out into the ocean for his daring dip.
As the water rose above Wimpom’s waist and dampened his wings, he looked back. Mogdavy was still smiling his jock grin, encouraging his seaward student to go deeper, deeper, deeper.
Wimpom reached the shelf. Below him lay apparently fathomless depths. He was now far from the comfortable shallow he had heretofore experienced. He weighed up the philosophies of his last conversation in his mind, but it didn’t matter anymore on which side of the precipice he would voluntarily pledge his allegiance. The tug of an underwater current pulled him out to sea and swept all sense of agency away from the young moogle.
Wimpom looked below his feet again, and he could no longer see the shelf, only a gaping maw. In mere moments the unmoored moogle was further out than he had intended. He gazed with horror out over the horizon, a seemingly infinite expanse of water, his new destination. He felt alone again.
Sculling his hands, he managed to turn himself around in the water to look for Mogdavy on the shore for help, but his companion – if the now distant figure was ever his companion – merely faded into seafoam.
Wimpom attempted to fly, but his wings were too wet to flap. Like a moth trapped in a bath, the effort to take flight to the more hospitable environment of the skies was futile and denied to the moogle. Any effort at all merely hastened the moogle’s inevitable entry into a new kingdom: that which lay beneath his feet.
“If only my legs could fuse into a tail! If only the fluffy fibres of my fur could harden into scales! If only my wings could meld as one and serve me more efficiently as a dorsal fin!”
Wimpom took his last look at the life-giving sun, wondering if the king of the firmament might dole out his ropes of light and hoist him away from his predicament. The celestial disc was silent. Everything was silent, aside from the steady splash of the sea itself: rhythmic sounds serving as a subliminal Sirensong. Laying forward, limbs spread like a star, Wimpom then pressed his face though the fine film of the surface and beheld the alien aquatic domain.
“I am not Quina, kupo! The sea is no threat to me!” he fooled himself as his mouth immediately filled with the taste of salt.
The moogle was becoming delirious, or maybe he had been delirious all afternoon. All that was below him was a deep abyss: blue which tapered deeper and deeper towards black. Clear nothingness. And yet Wimpom believed he saw something, or felt something, beckoning him from the heart of Chaos. Join us… he thought he heard.
Above the surface, the moogle’s pom pom sank beneath the waterline with a glug. This was the last time the world above would ever see Wimpom.
Up to the calm waters a stream of bubbles soon popped, until that too ceased. Forever.
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#3 - A Midsummer Night's Chase
#3 - A Midsummer Night's Chase
In the dead of night a monster awakens. Pray for your soul that it not be taken. Hunger drives him, the kill compels, but nothing can satisfy him. From what hell doth this creature dwell?
He senses his prey. The hunter knows it very well. It has evaded him more times than he can tell. He knows the terrain before the hunt begins. Typically a great advantage, but the prey is also familiar.
Such a worthy prey would earn much respect from The Bringer.
Does he wait in ambush for his foe, or does he attempt to frighten him out of hiding? He stalks and climbs, leaps and prowls. He races now, his heart pounding. He can taste the fear. The great beast maneuvers the obstacles. No regard for the destruction in his wake. He fights back fatigue . He darts and dashes, matching the prey, but always a moment behind.
He pauses, desperation sets in as the dawn comes. Soon it will be too late. Searching for a way, continuing the chase. He gives everything to the effort at a furious pace. Eyes wide and unleashing his fury.
A terrific blaring noise rattles the beast of the night. He stops, dejected, reverence for his foe washes over him. Another night evaded, never having seen his opponent. The hunt must continue the next night, he knows.
Then the great Bringer of Kibbles arises. The Bringer, unconcerned with the lack of a kill, reaches out and blesses the hunter. The Bringer must have been pleased with the nights chase, because he lets forth a great pour of good tastes.
As light enters the realm of the perpetual chase, the Bringer leaves for the land of water, and the exhausted beast retires to his lair.